By Jack Rikess
1. No shady scenes.
We’ve all been there. A 7/11 parking lot, late at night, where every Slurpee-buying shopper looks like an undercover cop. Or you’ve just parked your buddy’s car near an apartment downtown where all the neighbors know why you’re walking towards that particular door.
Or worse, a friend of a friend who just got out of jail has some killer stuff that will make the whole crosstown drive worth it.
You name it — we all have a variety of reasons why we will go the extra mile to procure the best stuff possible, sometimes even when the risks are higher than you are.
Now, my closest dispensary is eight blocks away — a small industrial trailer where they may only have seven to 12 different varieties of medical marijuana — but I go to the old reliable, my mainstay downtown on Geary. (Funny story: I was on my way home on the bus with three clones in an odorless paper bag. There were two other dudes on the bus who were also clutching paper bags. Their all-knowing nods and smiles made me feel like we all belong to the same book club.)
Going to a dispensary is incredibly safe compared to my almost 40 years of scoring on the street.
At my mainstay they have about 20 to 30 varieties each of indicas, sativas and now, the very popular hybrids, for all the baby bears out there that need something in the middle, stacked like good friends next to each other in five-gallon mayonnaise jars in a glass cabinet-counter.Some days the choices are overwhelming. I am more apt to ask one of my budtenders what they like. If some of the guys I’ve got to know over the years are working behind the counter, like the Big Kahuna or Mikey the Great, I ask them what’s good for back pain or if I have to work, what won’t heavy me out and allow me to sit and type for 14 hours. [Editor’s note: Man, does that sound familiar.]
Once a personal relationship is established with your budtender, you’re golden. They tell me what medicine is going to work for me best, and I’ve never gone wrong.
Going to a dealer, if you don’t like what they have or turn down their product, it hurts their feelings. At the dispensary, they could care less. There’s another person behind you that will take the weed you said “no” to.
3. No reason to stock up.
Before I had my card, if my stash was getting low, below half an ounce, I’d have to start making calls to ensure I had product for the future. It was always a process of never running out.
Many times I bought marijuana when I didn’t need it or particularly needed to have it, but the idea of running out, or worse — not being able to get any marijuana because the town was dry or my Man was out of town — would be unacceptable to me.
With a dispensary, I sometimes smoke less, really, because I know the pot store is going to be there tomorrow. There’s no rush, man. It’s all cool.
One doesn’t need to maintain a bulging inventory unless one likes to have a lot of different shit around the crib to smoke.
Total transparency — dispensaries are like the grocery store. You go in with a budget, but if you’re stoned and have the munchies, you spend more than you’d planned to. Same thing with dispensaries. You go in for a Q.T. for the Trainwreck is off the rails and the Dragon’s Breath is out of this world. It’s easy to spend another hundo without trying.
And — mark my words — you don’t want to go in there sober. You spend less when you’re already high. Sober, you feel like a Make-A-Wish kid walking into Disneyland. That first time walking into a dispensary? There’s nothing like it.
4. You don’t have to buy there.
After getting my medical marijuana card, I Googled the pot shop locations and made maps for day trips in an effort to explore all the Magic Kingdoms waiting for this new patient. After checking out the third or fourth place I went to, I slowly realized that I didn’t have to score from every place I entered.
If a dispensary’s medicine wasn’t up to my standards, or there was just something funky about the place that I didn’t like (hello, south of Market), I can leave.
The great thing about having a medical marijuana card, if you don’t like the customer service or any other thing that directs you to one enterprise over another — why someone prefers Whole Foods over Trader Joe’s for example — those things exist in the pot world, too. Competition makes for a buyer’s market.
One of the pot shops here in town has coined the phrase “Home of the four-gram eighths” as a marketing tool to compete with the other guys. For half a gram, I don’t know, but for some people…
Speaking of other guys — growing up, this one guy from the Midwest I once bought from sold what he called his “exotics,” the good stuff, in bags that weighed five grams — but he sold them as quarter-ouncers. Why? Because he could.
5. You can get exactly what you want.
I made the mistake for my first few months of getting the strongest medicine available. I’d walk in and ask one of the boys for their most potent strain of Indy. The real dick-in-the-road, paralysis-inducing, Snoop-Dogg-crippling WEED that was guaranteed to hurt.
Then I’d spend the rest of the day on the floor.
Now if I need some speedy stuff to write with, or some nighttime stuff that makes John Stewart funnier but still understandable, I know what to ask for — or, as I said, let my budtender make a recommendation.
You don’t take antibiotics when you need a sleeping pill, do you? One shouldn’t take an indica when a nice sativa or hybrid is what you actually need.
It’s 2011 — time for this stuff to make sense.
6. Hash, edibles, and clones, oh my!
Dispensaries have more than marijuana. While I am not a fan of the modern hash I see — I prefer your old-school surfboards of Afghani or Lebanese, opposed to this water-based bubble hash — it is great to have the choice.I did go through an intense edible period at first, though. A small little fun fact: Pot brownies and the like are as fattening as their non-magic brothers and sisters. I started to put on some weight after getting my card and couldn’t figure it out until I realized I was doing my new faves — pot caramels and toffee — almost daily!
A word to the wise and overweight out there: Those little candies can sneak up on you a couple of different ways.
Oh, and I planted some clones. I’ve gone country. I’ll let you know as the crop progresses.
7. If you love WEED…
It’s Friday; a big weekend is coming up. In fact, it’s a holiday weekend with Monday being a day off for those who have to leave the house. You’re in line at your favorite dispensary, and the line is long (seven deep).Everyone wants to score their shit and get on with their lives.
Then that moment happens. A feeling of tranquility falls over the dispensary as the patients realize the uniqueness of the locale, and what is transpiring in front of us.
We’re all buying WEED legally in a place that is authorized to legally sell it.
It just doesn’t get any better than this, and we all know it.
8. The WEED is so outrageously good.Durban Poison, GDP, those stoopid Kushes that I complain about but still buy. Skunks, Diesels, and every day there seems to be a new strain discovered or genetically altered, so really — the shit is too good to turn down.
Some days, it is very hard to say no. Luckily, I don’t have the cash to go nuts. Just enough to go crazy.
And there are 30 dispensaries in my town competing for potheads with the lure of great pot and all kinds of organically grown medical marijuana.
I’ve actually had to ask for medicine that isn’t so strong. What we call at home, “For the ladies…”
9. There are a lot of them.
With so many dispensaries in Berkeley, Oakland, and throughout the East Bay, there is a world out there still undiscovered for the cannabis explorer.
But then I’d have to leave the house.
10. It just makes sense.
The difference in going to a dispensary as opposed to going over to a stranger’s or friend’s house for pot is almost like the difference between shopping at an airport kiosk or small corner market for groceries instead of going to Food World.The smaller the place, the less choice you have — at, ironically, a higher price. With the advent of dispensaries, the price of marijuana hasn’t dropped dramatically for the consumers on this side of the counter. (It’s a different story for growers.)
No matter what you’ve read, the good news is because the world hasn’t fallen apart with the opening of dispensaries. Crime hasn’t taken over neighborhoods and life has gone on.
For adults to have the ability of going into a safe, secure environment to pursue their own form of happiness, makes perfect sense in a perfectly libertarian sort of way.
For me, after risking my life more than once in order to get high (sad but true), dispensaries only make sense. The time has come to grow up, tax us if you must, but give us access to what we’ve been buying in the dark of night from strangers for years on our own.
What is it, 43 million Americans smoke pot either regularly or just at parties, or at least when they come over to my house. Let’s not play games anymore. Open your doors and let the Black Market in. We’ll all be the better for it.
Editor’s note: Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.
Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.
His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.
He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.